Butternut Squash Soup

Oh, this soup.

5 ingredients + spices + water.

1 hour, 15 minutes.

That’s it. And it’s thick and tasty and even enjoyed by a squash-hater (Dad). And it’s healthy and inexpensive and stretches. And you can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. (You might think I’m talking pancakes, but I’m not!) Gluten-free, vegan and very awesome. Let’s make this magical concoction.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Creamy, piping hot, and full of flavor, this healthy soup provides your body with fiber, potassium, carotenoids and antioxidants. This means a healthier heart, cancer fighters, and healthy nervous and immune systems. It’s a power food with the consistency of buttery happiness and the color of a sunset. It’s all good. And super easy to make and eat this awesome soup. Don’t focus on the healthy and be mesmerized by the awesomity of this power house meal. Serve with crusty bread, a salad or even a potato on the side for the ultimate warmth on a winter day.

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squash (4 pounds total-ish)
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 4 cups water (or 2 cups stock and 2 cups water)
  • 2 cups milk (I used almond)
  • Spices: 2 TB olive oil, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, few dashes pepper, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of each: ginger & cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of each: nutmeg, cloves.

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with a nonstick baking mat, parchment, foil or just spray. Peel and chop squash into 1-inch chunks (-ish). Chop apple, onion and carrots into bite-sized chunks, too.
  • In a large bowl, toss veggies/fruit chunks into olive oil and spices until coated. (I had to do this in 2 batches.) Then, spread the chunks out on the baking sheets as one layer (evenly roasts this way). Roast for 35 minutes, or until cooked through and browning on edges.
  • In a large pot, add water and all roasted veggies. Heat on high until bubbling. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Option 1: If you have an immersion blender: blend mixture together until desired consistency. Garnish with cinnamon and toasted seeds and enjoy!
  • Option 2: If you have a regular blender: Add half of liquid and half of veggies to your blender and blend until desired consistency. Transfer blended mixture to a large bowl. Repeat blending with remaining ingredients and transfer to the bowl or pot. Garnish with toasted seeds and cinnamon and enjoy!
  • Note: If you prefer a “runny” soup, add more water or milk and let simmer longer. Also, rinse and roast the seeds with a little olive oil and salt for 15 minutes, for a fun topping.
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Chopped.

Roasted.

Roasted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will definitely make this again. Definitely. Now to convert my husband to loving squash…and thanks to you all reading my 300th blog post. Wow, that’s crazy.

-Laurel

 

 

 

Day 16: The Ultimate Compromise Pie

Ever watch The Chew, that show?

I’m not often home when it’s on, but I caught an episode a couple of weeks and HAD to make this pie for Thanksgiving. You see, I’m not the biggest pie nerd. I really like to eat pie but, on my list of 25 top items to bake, pie might not make it. It’s nothing against pie, I just like other things, too. So, when I saw this awesome recipe by Carla Hall and realized how awesome it was, I had to make it. I got excited about pie!

My mom helped me make this because I am pie dough-illiterate. My dough tastes pretty good, but it’s not pretty. I’ll work on that.

The Ultimate Compromise (Pumpkin Pecan) Pie

Lightly adapted from Carla Hall from The Chew

For the family that can’t agree on pumpkin OR pecan pie. For the people who like pecans but can’t stand the super-sugary sweetness of the pecan pie filling. For those who like to put pumpkin in everything they eat between the months of September and December. This pie is for you.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold Unsalted Butter (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)

Crust Directions:

  • In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.  Refrigerate until very cold, about 30 minutes. During that time, refrigerate your butter, flour, mixer bowl, and paddle, too. (optional)
  • In the chilled bowl, combine the cold butter and flour.  With your hands, toss the butter in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.
  • With the chilled paddle, beat the flour-butter mixture on low speed to just break up the butter, about 60 seconds.  Add the water mixture all at once and raise the speed to medium-low.  Beat just until the dough comes together in big chunks, then turn off the mixer. 
  • Divide the chunks of dough in half and very gently pat each group into a round 1-inch-thick disk.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, before rolling.  You can refrigerate the disks for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. 

Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe for Carla’s Perfect Pie Crust
  • 2 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 cup Cinnamon Sugar (for garnish & topping) 
  • Whipped Cream (for garnish)

Pie Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness and line a 9 inch pie plate, allowing excess to drape over edge. Fold over edges and crimp, then trim any remaining excess. Line the pan with parchment and pour in baking beans or weights (or use a round, flat oven-safe bowl for pressure, like Corningware). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is light golden.
  • Meanwhile, cream 1 TB butter and sugar, then add beaten eggs, vinegar, salt, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir in 1 cup of the pecans and all of the pumpkin puree.
  • Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake on center rack of oven for 50 minutes or until set; after 40 minutes, toss the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans in cinnamon sugar and remaining 1 TB butter, melted. Top the pie with the pecans and continue baking.  Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with a garnish of whipped cream and remaining cinnamon sugar. *Note:  If crust is browning before center is cooked, tent edges of pie with foil and continue baking.

 There you have it, the ULTIMATE COMPROMISE. It’s delicious, and it’s even better the next day. Thanks, Carla, thanks.

Happy compromising!
Laurel
~Laurel~

Day 14: Holidays and Apple Cinnamon Cheeseballs

Mom, Dad, Matt, and Me on Thanksgiving
Too much turkey.

 Hello! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate?

While we have this rich U.S. history of coming together, sometimes the underlying history of Thanksgiving is hard to swallow (hierarchy, etc.). So I find more meaning in celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks for the amazing people, places and things that I’m able to come into contact with in my life. This year, I’m looking at the great ribbon that connects Thanksgiving themes to Valentine’s Day. Puzzled? On Valentine’s Day, we traditionally show love for others in a special way. At Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for all of those who have brought joy and love to us throughout the entire year. It’s about appreciating life, seeing the joy in little things and unlikely situations and giving thanks to those who bring that joy. I thank God for people and creatures who make life just worth it. And Thanksgiving is also a special reminder for me that food brings people together. Big groups or small gatherings, food is this sacred instrument that allows us to give and receive love in a spicy curry, juicy burger, in bright red salsa, freshly baked apple pie. Beautiful.

Drive-through lights at the Portland Raceway…8 Maids a Milking–for our awesome cheeseball

Now let’s talk about food. My parents visited, we have friends stopping by here and there both locals and out of towners (Pearl Jam NW leg of their tour), and we have more family coming in a few weeks. There has been more food in this house than I can devour. So let’s talk about it.

Cheeseballs. That word can either make someone really excited or really grossed out. I remember seeing those packaged hunks of dairy disguised by sliced almonds at holiday parties as a kid, and I never liked them. But the cheese cubes were always appreciated. My husband likes anything cheese-related (who doesn’t?), so I try to incorporate it here and there. I like cheese, but not TOO MUCH creamy, rich gloppy stuff. In saying that, I did sell gourmet cheeses at a deli in grad school. I learned a lot and ate a lot of cheese. My cholesterol went up. When I quit that job, my cholesterol was at a healthy level. Funny. So I like to eat little bits of cheese that pack a lot of flavor. One plus to that job:  I learned to make cheeseballs that were actually quite tasty.

Fresh ingredients. Great recipes. 10 minutes. That’s all it took. So I’ll share one of those secret recipes with you. Granted, I made 20-30 cheeseballs at a time, so I’ve scaled back the restaurant-size recipe, tested it, simplified it, and here it is for you.

Apple Cinnamon Cheeseball

This refreshing take on the cheeseball is simple, delicious and not-too-heavy. Serve with water crackers, butter crackers or even on bagels for a delicious, cheesy appetizer. Leftovers from your party? Spoon 1 tablespoon into your hot oatmeal for a creamy, warm cinnamony surprise.

8 oz lowfat cream cheese, softened (set on counter for 45 minutes)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step one: Combine cheeses, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until incorporated all together. Roll into a ball the size of a baseball.
Step two: Roll into the chopped pecans, coating all sizes. Store the cheeseball on a dish, covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

The cheeseball can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and, if you want to have an appetizer on hand at all times, actually freezes pretty well, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil (thaw in the fridge).




How to make dried apples-the quick way:
Step one: Slice 2 apples very thinly (use knife or mandoline). Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Step two: On a baking sheet or rack, lay apple slices as a single layer. Let bake for 2-3 hours, flipping once an hour. The more hot air touches the apple surfaces, the better (so I use a cooling rack).
Step three: When they’re ready, they’ll be dry yet soft and ‘bendy.’ Store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
 
A thought: If you slice your pecan halves across the middle, you get these awesome little pieces that look like “M”s or the Batman symbol.

Happy post-Thanksgiving. Don’t overshop but do enjoy the lights, food, festivities and people/animals around you. Happy, happy weekend. 🙂

-Laurel

~Laurel~

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